Okay. So we are done with 2017. Thank goodness! That was some year. Despite received knowledge, it was not all bad. Foluke’s African Skies definitely had a nice year.
In 2017, I moved Foluke’s African Skies from its wordpress piggy-back site to this stand alone site. Aww! My baby’s growing up… This blog, (and its writer, yours mostly truly) has never made a secret of its ambitions. I want to change the world, make it a better place. And I focus on my positionality as an African woman. I stand with confidence in who I am. With 2017 as evidence, I don’t see how anyone can disagree with the aim of changing the world. What on earth are people thinking??? Really, it seems that the world is becoming a worse place. Nevertheless, we keep hoping that the passage of time in and of itself will suffice to make people better.
Someone was saying to me quite recently that social media is quite toxic and hostile. As a avid-ish blogger, I agree. I want to share some of my coping mechanisms with you.
Choose your battles: It seems to me that some people on these internet streets are out looking for a fight. Seriously, it seems to me that if anyone wanted a proper fight, then the right place to look for it is not shielded by anonymity and a flimsy laptop. Now, I come from the land of the clapback (Nigeria), specifically Yorubaland (ish, I am Okun from Kogi state, but that is another story). Yoruba people don’t need to search google for a caustic reply, we will never travel home for a response, we are fluent in sarcasm, ‘back to sender’ is all of our middle names, we were weaned on agbele, we can beat all world records on return times… you get the gist. But this internet thing has taught me to choose my battles. Some people are looking for a fight and I am not Anthony Joshua. Somebody read a 2500 word essay I wrote and asked me to explain further. No questions o, just explain further. After 2500 words! When I am not Patrick Obahiagbhon (google it). I tire o.
Your audience is not everyone: One thing that online content creators come across almost on a daily basis is whataboutry. You write a well-researched essay on violence faced by women. 2 Seconds after you post it, Mr Puma comments, ‘what about the women who beat their husbands?’ This is how I became fluent in waka pass. Crickets. I know that not everything I write will speak to everyone who will read it. That is life, I am not a jack of all writes.
Be ready to unlearn: Despite the foregoing, I have learnt to unlearn. I have learnt to listen. I have looked at a lot of my writing in ages past and, walahi, I am consumed by shame. But what if I had not changed over the years? Would that not be a greater source of shame? So I leave my old posts up as a reminder to myself of what I used to be and I continue to write with a sense of what I may become. Of course, I need to take into account how counter-suggestible I am (My friends say I am stubborn, but I counter that suggestion…) I need to remind myself to listen and to be ready to unlearn. Because I am a seeker of truth, which is greater than myself. I cannot be the greatest thing about my blog.
Do not be personal: One thing I try to avoid in my writing is being critical of specific people. I have given quite a lot of thought to this. If there is a problem that emanates from one person, would it not be better to address that person directly? So I try very hard not to address any identifiable person in my blogging and writing. Most of the malaise in our world is a result of the systems we have put in place, some people take these systems to their extreme conclusion, but they are only allowed to do so because of the societal structures that have allowed them to. Misogyny, racism, poverty, any form of oppression… these are all systems. Attacking specific people who oppress sometimes makes us ignore the system which allows them to oppress, it allows us to think that victory will been won by defeating these people, it allows oppressive systems to morph, evolve and continue oppressing. The cancer of the world is in the systems which we uphold. So I avoid the personal.
Be kind: So why not be kind. If we say that social media is toxic and hostile and the world is hostile, it behoves us then to not be the thing which we accuse others of being. Pass on the kindness and not the hate, not the hostility. When there is a fire burning, we do not pour flammable materials on it. The world is a hostile place because people are passing on the evil they receive. It is hard to be kind, it is counter-intuitive, but it is what we must be. For our world to survive, not to be plunged into hate, we must be kind. And when I cannot be kind, I waka pass.
What helps? Following on from being kind, is being helpful. If I am going to exist in this blogosphere and howl into the darkness and critique the world, then I have to constantly ask myself if I am just describing a problem or seeking to help the problem to end. There is a fine line here of course. The more we understand a problem, the easier it is to solve, but after a while we need to move on from data collection and discourse into action. To change the world, we need to disrupt it. We need to take action to change.
Love Africa: I love Africa. If you have read anything I have ever written, this will be clear. If we claim we want to change the world and do not love Africa, we will not change the world, just parts of it, for a while. Our vision is not global. Narratives that ignore or distort Africa will not change the world. And that is why Foluke’s African Skies exists. Foluke’s African Skies seeks to speak hope in the darkness, bring knowledge of Africa to the forefront. Ensure that we are all an integral part of the conversation. So we can look up into the skies, in hope, and see the African stars. Which are all of us. Oju orun t’eye e fo, lai fara kanra.
‘Africa is an eternal thought in the mind of God.
If there were no Africa, I’d dream of her.
My dreams would be filled with moonlight and sunlight,
Raging rivers and still seas, cascading waterfalls, gushing geysers.
I’d dream of sounds of sorrow, loud laughter, strains of songs,
Wailing and weeping, groans and grunts, cries and cackles.
I’d hear the slap of bare feet running across the Savannah floor,
The clap of hands, rhythmically imploring the divine deity,
The music of the forest, the silence of the desert, the rhythm of Africa.
All through the night, my dreams would be dreams of Africa
Dreams of her painful beauty, dreams of her serene bondage.
And then the sun will rise…over Africa.’